Lawmakers Survey Aftermath of ACA Inaction

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Sen. Rob Portman says he will continue to work with his colleagues on a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act in the wake of the apparent failure yesterday of efforts to repeal and/or replace the current law.

The collapse – at least for now — of Senate Republicans’ efforts to “fix” Obamacare left few involved in the process pleased.

“I have said consistently that I support ‘repeal and replace’ and I’m not giving up on doing both of those things,” Portman R-Ohio, told reporters during a conference call Tuesday afternoon.

With little margin opposition because of the Senate’s 52-48 split, Republican leaders backed off repealing and replacing the health-care when GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas announced they would oppose the plan, joining fellow Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky who had earlier declared their opposition.

Portman reiterated to reporters his criticism of the existing law – including the number of Ohio counties with one or no insurers offering policies through the exchanges and the complaints of higher premiums and deductibles – and with the bills passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate-drafted plan.

“I don’t think they were responsive to what we have going on in Ohio,” not only in terms of the expansion of Medicaid but also the state’s opioid epidemic, in which Medicaid is “a significant payer” for treatment, he said.

A backup plan to simply repeal major portions of ACA with the intent of devising a replacement later met a similar fate when three of the 52 GOP senators – Collins, Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – said they could not vote to repeal the health-care law without a replacement.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to just repeal,” Portman agreed. “We’ve also got to put a replacement in place.”

He disagreed with President Trump’s suggestion, reported earlier in the day, that Republicans should let the existing law fail, forcing Democrats to come to them.

“My concern is that if you just allow [Obamacare] to fail that it will hurt people in Ohio as compared to having a replacement that will actually provide people the ability to get insurance coverage where there’s none now but also have some competition and bring a market together where you can get rates down,” he said.

For Senate Republicans to fail to get support to even debate on the legislation shows how disastrous it would be for the country, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said Tuesday.

“But we must remain vigilant, because we have seen this movie before – first we think the Trumpcare is dead and then a new, worse version resurfaces,” he continued. “A repeal without replace would mean 32 million Americans would lose their coverage, so we must continue to make our voices heard.”

Ryan called on Republicans to “stop sabotaging the current health-care system” and the ACA exchanges and to begin leading.

“The bills that Republicans have put forward are dangerous and destructive,” he said. Any health-care reform plan should have the goals of covering more people, bringing costs down, and providing quality coverage, but the GOP-backed bills “do just the opposite.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, lashed out at least a few of his GOP colleagues in the upper chamber in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.

“The millions of Americans who voted for members of Congress that repeatedly promised to repeal and replace Obamacare are frustrated and fed up. I am, too,” he said.

Johnson said he has repeatedly voted to repeal and replace ACA, only to often have “a small band of Republican members lose the courage of their convictions” and vote against that. “We cannot be the party of ‘no.’ We must be the party of solutions, and there is no bigger problem right now than the ongoing collapse of Obamacare.”

Johnson, through a spokesman, later said he would continue to support repeal and replacement. The plan to repeal then eventually replace the health-care law remains a work in progress, but the Senate needs to act, he added.

Conservative activist Tom Zawistowski, president of the We the People Convention, lambasted Portman in an email. He charged that the Ohio Republican lied to voters again last year – when he was up for re-election – when he stated he would vote to repeal Obamacare.

“Now he has the chance to do it and instead he says he will not because he wants to permanently make you pay to ensure the 72,000 able-bodied people Gov. John Kasich put on Medicaid expansion in Ohio – against your wishes,” Zawistowski said.

“Repeal of Obamacare was THE issue in last year’s election and Rob Portman looked you in the face and lied to you,” he added.

Connie Pillich, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, hailed “the collapse of both Trumpcare and Obamacare repeal in the Senate” in an email.

“I’m both thrilled and relieved that the calls, pleas, and resistance from citizens all over Ohio and the country have stopped Trumpcare in its tracks,” Pillich said. However, with Trump announcing his intent to allow the current law to collapse, “it’s clear we can’t stop fighting yet.”

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.